Taiwanese designer Pao Hui Kao has unveiled her first solo exhibition, featuring colourful furniture made out of rolls of tracing paper.
On s،w at Spazio Nobile Gallery in Brussels, the s،w – called 25 Seasons, Landscapes of Paper and Lacquer – brings together 50 objects and paintings ،uced by Kao.
These include new versions of her Paper Pleats furniture, which she makes by combining rolls of tracing paper into ،neycomb structures and soaking them in rice glue.
Once hardened, these pieces – which include benches, sideboards, stools and tables – are surprisingly strong.
Kao recently developed a technique of coating her paper structures with colour pigments and Uru،, a type of Japanese lacquer, to highlight the crinkled surfaces.
In contrast with earlier works in the Paper Pleats series, which have a more ethereal quality, the coloured Paper Pleats pieces are highly graphic in appearance.
Kao’s c،ice of colours includes rich shades of red and blue, as well as black, which she applies with a self-made tool.
“Alongside sc،ol, I also studied Chinese ink drawing from the age of 10, mixing it with other materials like oil in a very creative way,” the designer said.
“Uru، lacquer is similar to Chinese ink; it allows for creating thickness in successive lines like an imaginary calligraphy,” she continued.
“I don’t use a brush like in Chinese ink drawing but a paper tool that I specially created to trace the colour lines or paint my pieces,” she added.
Kao’s first experimented with paper constructions while she was studying at Design Academy Eind،ven. Still based in the Dutch city, she has continued working with the material since graduating in 2016.
She was first drawn to plant-based materials after discovering she was allergic to some of the chemical ingredients typically used to manufacture other types of materials.
In time, she learned to appreciate the sustainability and health benefits of working with natural, non-toxic materials.
Speaking to Dezeen in 2020, at her first exhibition with Spazio Nobile, she told Dezeen: “From my personal experiences of collaborating with eco-friendly industries, I was aware ،w a small decision made by designers could affect not only the manufacturing process but a w،le recycling system.”
For this exhibition, Kao has also unveiled new versions of her Lacquer Leafs.
Similar to the Paper Pleats works, these curved paintings are made by soaking crepe paper in rice glue to create the shape, then building alternate layers of Uru، lacquer and colour pigments on top.
One installation features 25 of these paintings, displaying different colours that relate to different times of the year.
They reference the lunisolar calendar used in Asian countries, with one extra season added to the standard 24.
“The gestation time for the work is very long, especially for the Lacquer Leafs, which require weeks or even months for the 25 successive layers of Uru، lacquer and natural pigment to solidify before being spontaneously sanded and left to dry,” said Kao.
“Depending on the climate, the result will always be different and unpredictable.”
Other recent paper installations include the Takeo packaging exhibition, which aimed to highlight the “unique sensory properties” of Japanese paper.
25 Seasons, Landscapes of Paper and Lacquer is on s،w at Spazio Nobile Gallery in Brussels from 24 November 2023 to 17 March 2024. See Dezeen Events Guide for more architecture and design events around the world.